Monday, 24 February 2014 21:14

Nokia makes Microsoft an Android vendor Featured

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Just a few weeks before the finalisation of the sale of its phone division to Microsoft, Nokia has announced its first Android phones. Microsoft will be selling Google software.

Mobile World Congress has started. Expect dozens of phone announcements in the next few days.

To nobody’s surprise, Nokia has used the event to announce “its commitment to connecting the next billion to the Internet by releasing five new affordable handsets.” The thing is, they run Android and not Microsoft’s Windows Phone, which will put the new owner in an interesting position.

They may run Android and use Android apps, but they are connected to Microsoft services and “signature Nokia experiences.” They are aimed at developing markets – and they are cheap. The announcements:

  • The Nokia X range (X, X+ and XL) is priced to capture the “fast-growing affordable smartphone market and provide an on-ramp to Lumia and Microsoft services like Skype, OneDrive and outlook.com.” They start at €89 (about $130)
  • The Nokia Asha 230 is Nokia’s most affordable full-touch Asha device to date, priced at €€45 (about $65).
  • The Nokia 220 is an Internet-ready mobile phone with social apps, priced at €29 (about $45).

Stephen Elop, the same man who only six months ago defended Nokia’s decision not to go Android, and who will head Microsoft’s phone division., said: “Nokia has connected billions of people around the world, and today we demonstrated how our portfolio is designed to connect the next billion people to great experiences.” Right …

“Our deliberate approach is to offer four tiers of products including our affordable entry-level devices like the new Nokia 220; our entry-level Asha touch phones like the new Nokia Asha 230; our new Nokia X, X+ and XL smartphones primarily for growth economies; and our Lumia portfolio, which is where we introduce the greatest innovation and provide full compatibility with the Microsoft experience.”

The best of all worlds, he said, echoing Voltaire’s Dr Pangloss. It’s all good.

“The Nokia X family features Nokia’s renowned handset quality and design, with a fresh, tile-based user interface inspired by our Lumia family. All devices come with Fastlane, a screen which lets people switch between their favourite apps more smoothly.

“People can access curated, quality-tested apps from Nokia Store, more than a dozen third-party app stores and by sideloading. Out of the box, they can enjoy signature Nokia experiences including free HERE Maps, with true offline maps and integrated turn-by-turn navigation, and Nokia MixRadio for free music streaming and downloadable playlists. All devices are also pre-loaded with a variety of third-party apps and games.“

Hard to resist, really. What must Microsoft make of it all? More to the point, what will be the future of Android phones under Microsoft? And do Android phones with a Microsoft shell make sense? Where does that leave Windows Phone?

The Nokia release blurb gushes on: “The first device, the Nokia X, comes with a 4” IPS capacitive display and 3MP camera. The Nokia X+ is optimised for multimedia enthusiasts, who can enjoy even more games, music, photos and video thanks to more memory and storage. Both the Nokia X and X+ will be available in bright green, bright red, cyan, yellow, black and white.”

Wow! Colours!

“The third family member, the Nokia XL, boasts a 5” display with 2MP front-facing camera – ideal for Skype video calls – and a 5MP rear-facing, autofocus camera with flash. The Nokia XL will be available in bright green, orange, cyan, yellow, black and white. The entire Nokia X family is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon dual core processor and supports Dual SIM, letting people switch SIM cards to get better tariffs.”

But the really interesting stuff is the phones meant for the developing world (“people experiencing the Internet for the first time.”

Nokia has added to its low end Asha range. “The Asha 230 is the ideal introduction to full-touch mobile phones. The Nokia Asha 230 includes all the benefits of the Asha Platform, including Fastlane and access to popular social apps like Line, WeChat and WhatsApp. One swipe up from the lockscreen activates the Nokia Asha 230’s camera, and one touch enables people to share images to their favourite social network.

“With a forthcoming software update, the Nokia Asha 230 will introduce 7GB of free cloud storage on Microsoft OneDrive, and the option to automatically back up photos to the cloud.”

Nokia also announced its “lowest-priced, data-enabled phone: the beautifully designed Nokia 220, which makes the mobile Internet accessible to more people around the world.

“With its 2.4” colour screen, dust- and splash-proof keypad, the Nokia 220 is a well-crafted choice for people experiencing mobility and the Internet for the first time, with Facebook and Twitter pre-loaded and Bing as the default search engine in the pre-loaded Nokia Xpress browser.”

Low cost smartphones running Android, owned by Microsoft, accessing the Internet. What is the world coming to?

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire. He is one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’

He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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